Security (Heathrow)

– in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 26th January 1989.

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Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North 4:36 pm, 26th January 1989

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the permission given to Skyliner Services Limited and Fernley Aeroclean to resume aircraft cleaning operations at Heathrow. This is a matter of considerable urgency because thousands of passengers pass through Heathrow airport every hour. The House is entitled and, indeed, obliged to be satisfied that any possibility of a breach of airport security has been eliminated. It is a matter of considerable importance because of the widespread public concern about airport security in the wake of recent breaches of security, and in particular the tragic circumstances surrounding the Pan Am crash at Lockerbie.

Less than a fortnight ago public confidence in airport security received a further hammer blow as a result of revelations that journalists, posing as cleaners, had gained access to airliners, exposing considerable laxity in the security operations of the two firms that I have mentioned. So important were those revelations considered by the Secretary of State for Transport that he immediately called in the chairman of the British Airports Authority and then came to the House with a full statement in which he announced the withdrawal of passes from employees of the two firms.

Yet only 10 days later, without a statement in the House, we read in The Daily Telegraph today that both companies are being allowed to resume operations at Heathrow. The House is entitled to know what dramatic changes have taken place in the companies in the last 10 days to justify the restoration of their normal service. We are entitled to know that guarantees and assurances have been given to the Secretary of State. We are also entitled to know why the right hon. Gentleman believes that, only 10 days after such a breach of security and such a shattering of public confidence, these firms should be allowed to resume normal operations.

In view of the sudden reversal in the Secretary of State's opinion of the competence of both firms, he should be answerable to the House and should justify his decision to allow Skyliner Services Limited and Fernley Aeroclean to resume operations. I therefore ask for an emergency debate in the interests of public confidence and safety so that this important matter may be discussed in greater detail.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the permission given to Skyliner Services Limited and Fernley Aeroclean to resume aircraft cleaning operations at Heathrow. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 20, I have to take into account the requirement of the Order and to announce my decision without giving reasons to the House. I have listened with care to what the hon. Member has said, but I regret that I do not consider that the matter he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.